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AG Griffin approves initiated act for Freedom of Information proposal

Arkansas State Capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Last week, Attorney General Tim Griffin approved the ballot title for a proposed amendment to incorporate aspects of the state’s Freedom of Information Act into the Arkansas constitution. On Monday (Jan. 29), he approved, with changes, the companion proposed initiated act on the subject.

The initiated act creates state law to compliment the broader aspects of the proposed amendment that aims to provide more clarity on government disclosure to the public. Arkansas Citizens for Transparency is a bipartisan group that has been working to get the proposals ready for ballot qualification through voter signatures. With the AG’s approval, the group can now begin that quest.

The measure, known as the “Arkansas Government Disclosure Act,” would:

  • Change as little as possible in the existing FOIA, with the primary exception being to provide a definition for “public meeting,” which has been a hole in the FOIA.
  • Safeguard the ability of any citizen of Arkansas to enforce the FOIA by protecting the ability to recover attorneys’ fees in the event that a FOIA request is wrongfully denied.
  • Create a penalty for bad actors who knowingly violate the FOIA.
  • Create a state commission for records requests.

Arkansas Citizens for Transparency can now collect over 72,000 signatures for the initiated act and will need over 90,000 signatures for the companion constitutional amendment proposal.
In signing off on the initiated act, Griffin warned the group could face a court challenge.

“While the foregoing have been substituted and certified, I believe that, in light of the significance of the subject matter undertaken and the potential complexity and far-reaching effects of this proposal, a cautionary note is warranted. You should be aware that experience has shown a correlation between the length and complexity of initiated measures and their susceptibility to a successful ballot-title challenge,” he told organizers of the measure.

You can read Griffin’s letter and the substituted ballot title at this link.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.